’Isn’t this Mr. Abas? The Shea butter refinery owner in Tumu? I heard a middle age man ask Adaku the know it all man in the village. He replied in affirmative ’yes he is, can’t you see the expensive bride price? Tumu is a long way off from our village which will really be a problem as it will mean I wouldn’t see my friend again. Sitting right next to him is Eli’s father with his pot belly and a smile widely across his face from the happiness of marrying his daughter off with an enviable bride price.
Directly opposite them was Eli’s mum who was now decorating Eli’s hair with the traditional marriage beads and in the center of the small circle they had made with their stools was a heap of yam, fowls, palm wine and a cows purposely as the bride price; I guess that caused the grin on her father’s face, greedy man. Around them was Eli extended family and onlookers who came to admire the bride price and not to despise the child being married off. Bride price; it’s really just like its name….the price for the child bride.
I realized it was getting too dark and I hurried off to the stream with thoughts of Eli on my mind ignoring my fears of it been late. I grew up with her and she was my play mate. We attended the local primary school and we are the same age. She always wanted to be a lawyer to fight against child marriages in our community. We had practiced it out at the stream everyday and when we meet at schools on role playing games.
We know we will be married off but didn’t know it will be that soon for Eli, she had just turned 12 years as me a month before and told me she will run away before she got married off but It didn’t turn out well for us and her sad face lingered on my mind on my way to and from the stream. I worried about her and what she knew about marriage or child birth as we both haven’t started menstruating yet.
I couldn’t eat well that night which really didn’t alarm mama as the news of Eli’s marriage was making waves for the wrong reason, being the bride price. Nobody really cared how she must be feeling all they cared was the price paid for her and how expensive it was. I went to bed worried about my own fate.
Growing up in a society where there are still inhumane old cultural practices going on despite the efforts some advocate agencies has made to abolish it is traumatizing. I have watched my sisters, friends and cousins being betrothed to men old enough to be their grandfather at a tender age of 12 due to poverty and also to quack traditions or so they call it. I don’t see any honor in child marriages but the society I am born into, it’s all around and I couldn’t escape it no matter how hard I tried.